Paw Print Rewind #012: May 14, 2015

Editor’s Note: This is the Paw Print Rewind, a daily look at the top news headlines.

Macy’s profit down on strong dollar, port strike

Macy’s reported a lower quarterly profit due to a strong dollar that hurt foreign tourist spending in the United States, colder-than-usual February weather, and disruptions at West Coast ports that held imports up.

The company, which operates its namesake stores and the upscale Bloomingdale’s chain, increased its share repurchase program by $1.5 billion, bringing the total outstanding authorization to about $2.1 billion.

It raised its quarterly dividend to $0.36 per share from $0.31.

Same-store sales, including licensed departments, fell 0.1 percent.

The department store operator’s net income fell to $193 million ($0.56 per share), in the first quarter that ended May 2 from $224 million ($0.60 per share) a year earlier.

Net sales fell 0.7 percent to $6.23 billion.

In February, about 12 percent of Macy’s first-quarter merchandise was delayed due to the West Coast port strike.

Delta Air Lines approves $5 billion buyback plan, hikes dividend

Delta has announced a $5 billion share buyback and will raise its quarterly dividend as part of a plan to return over $6 billion to shareholders through 2017.

Delta will raise its quarterly dividend to $0.135 per share from $0.09 in the September quarter.

“Today’s announcement marks the next phase of Delta’s long-term capital deployment strategy as we near conclusion of our balance sheet transformation and place even greater emphasis on returning our free cash flow to shareholders.”

-Daniel Carp, Delta Chairman

The airline is on track to complete the remaining payment of $725 million from its previous $2 billion buyback program by June 30, a year and a half ahead of schedule.

The company expects to achieve and maintain $4 billion of adjusted net debt by the end of 2017.

Delta plans to reinvest $2.5-$3 billion annually for fleet, facilities, technology and product improvement, allowing for 20 percent of its mainline fleet to be replaced over the next three years.

North Korea launches live-fire drills near disputed border with South

North Korea began live-fire drills Wednesday near a disputed sea border, according to South Korea’s military.

“If North Korea makes any provocation in our waters, we will strongly respond to it.”

-South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff

Nine news organizations begin publishing to Facebook’s mobile newsfeeds

Facebook has partnered with nine news publishers to launch Instant Articles that will let them publish articles directly to the service’s mobile news feeds.

Instant Articles will let stories load over 10 times faster than standard articles and will include content from organizations like the New York Times, BuzzFeed, and National Geographic, according to a company blog post.

“Instant Articles lets [news publishers] deliver fast, interactive articles while maintaining control of their content and business models.”

-Chris Cox, Facebook’s Chief Product Officer

News publishers can sell and embed advertisements in the articles to keep all the revenue, or allow the social network to sell ads.

Facebook will also let news organizations track data and traffic through comScore and other analytical tools.

Other launch partners include NBC, The Atlantic, The Guardian, BBC News, Spiegel and Bild, according to Facebook.

Carrier rocket fault caused Russian spacecraft failure

A Russian mission to resupply the International Space Station (ISS) failed because of a fault with the carrier rocket, according to Roscosmos space agency head Igor Komarov.

The Russian Progress M-27M cargo ship, carrying almost three tons of supplies, burned in the Earth’s atmosphere last week after ground crews lost control of the freighter shortly after it launched April 28.

A preliminary investigation showed the third stage of the Soyuz rocket used to launch the Progress cargo ship separated early, according to Komarov, leaving the capsule about 13 miles short of its intended attitude.

“There was an unintended separation of the carrier rocket.”

-Igor Komarov

A team of three ISS crew members, who were scheduled to leave the station later this week, will now return to Earth in June, according to the Tass news agency.

The next Progress resupply shuttle to the ISS was also delayed until the beginning of July and a manned mission to the space station will launch a few weeks later, according to Roscosmos.

The space agency will present the final results of its investigation on May 22.

Amtrak train derails in Philadelphia, at least six dead

At least six people were killed when an Amtrak train traveling from Washington to New York partially derailed in Philadelphia Tuesday night.

“I have never seen anything like it in my life.”

-Michael Nutter, Philadelphia mayor

At least 140 people were taken to local hospitals out of the 238 passengers and five crew mwmbers. Several were in critical condition, and most of the injured suffered fractures, according to the Associated Press. Seven people are dead: five were confirmed dead hours after the crash, with the other two

The derailment occurred before 10PM on the 2000 block of Wheatsheaf Lane when six cars of Amtrak 188 overturned in the city’s Port Washington neighborhood.

“I’ve never seen anything so devastating.”

-Derrick Sawyer, Philadelphia Fire chief

“We do not know what happened here. We do not know why this happened.”

-Michael Nutter

There is no indication of the derailment being caused by impact with another train.

“We were rolling along nice and smooth and then all of a sudden, we were on our side.”

-Don Kelleher, passenger to WCAU

“All of a sudden it felt like the brakes were hit hard and then our car.”

-Michael Black, passenger

Video from the scene showed emergency crews with flashlights swarming the crash site. A four-alarm response, approximately 120 firefighters and 200 police officers were responding to the derailment, according to WCAU. A triage center was setup, and buses transported passengers from the scene.

“You could see everything starting to shake. You could see people’s stuff flying over me.”

-Paul Cheung, Associated Press director of interactive and digital news production, passenger

The train was supposed to arrive in New York at 10:30PM ET Tuesday, according to NBC News producer Janelle Richards, but there was a loud crash around 9:20PM.

“People were pretty banged up. There was a lot of blood, a lot of bleeding. I pulled myself up. The guy who I kind of landed on was OK. The guy next to him was completely passed out, knocked unconscious.”

-Patrick Murphy, former U.S. congressman, passenger, to WPVI

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Delaware) was on the train, but got off in Wilmington before the derailment.

The National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Railroad Administration have sent investigators to the scene.

Amtrak has canceled service between New York and Philadelphia after the derailment.

Amtrak set up a hotline for family and friends of those on board at 1-800-523-9101.

Frankfort Crossing, where the derailment occurred, is normally under a speed restriction of 50MPH, according to Philly.com.

Verizon buys AOL in $4.4 billion mobile video push

AOL, owner of properties like the Huffington Post, TechCrunch, and Engadget, will become a Verizon subsidiary, with AOL CEO Tim Armstrong staying in his position.

“If we are going to lead, we need to lead in mobile.”

-Tim Armstrong, AOL CEO in a memo to employees

“AOL’s ad-tech offering has been driving its growth for some time now as the Internet business has faded. This acquisition is aimed at enabling Verizon to maximize its revenues from mobile video.”

-Dan Ridsdale, Edison Investment Research analyst

Nomura, RBS face $805 million damages after U.S. ruling

U.S. District Judge Denise Cote’s ruling that Nomura Holdings and the Royal Bank of Scotland made false statements selling mortgage-backed securities to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could result in a judgement exceeding $805 million, according to Philippe Selendy, a Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) lawyer.

Selendy gave his estimate of the final judgment’s amount a day after Cote found the banks liable for conduct preceding the 2008 financial crisis.

Cote’s 361-page ruling left unclear the exact amount the FHFA would recover. The agency has acted as Fannie and Freddie’s conservator since the government took them over in 2008.

“The exhaustive opinion of the court, after a full trial on the merits, decisively puts to rest the myth that bankers’ misconduct was not a driving force behind the crisis.”

-Phillippe Selendy, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan lawyer

While the banks would have to pay the FHFA $805 million, they would receive the mortgage bonds in exchange, which a defense expert witness at trial estimated were worth $434 million to $479 million as of March 26.

Nomura will appeal Cote’s ruling.

The lawsuit was the first to reach trial of 18 filed by the regulator in 2011 over about $200 billion in mortgage-backed securities that various banks sold Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The FHFA has obtained nearly $17.9 billion in settlements from institutions that include Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, and Deutsche Bank. Those deals followed adverse rulings by Cote.

Following a non-jury trial, Cote ruled against Nomura, which sponsored $2 billion of securities sold to Fannie and Freddie, and RBS, which underwrote four of the deals.

“The offering documents did not correctly describe the mortgage loans. The magnitude of falsity, conservatively measured, is enormous.”

-Denise Cote, U.S. District Court judge

Southwest pilots announce strike preparation as talks lag

Southwest Airlines’ pilots union announced staffing and funding for a committee to prepare pilots and the public for a walkout, in case it cannot reach a contract deal with management in coming months.

The new strike preparedness committee will work with outside consultants and others in the union, according to the Southwest Airlines Pilots’ Association (SWAPA) in a press release.

“While a strike is certainly not in either side’s best interest … [we are] doing our due diligence to prepare our pilots and passengers for the next steps in this federal mediation process should we not be able to reach a deal.”

-Paul Jackson, SWAPA union president

“We have full faith in the mediation process. Both parties are under the authority of the [National Mediation Board], and SWAPA should not be able to strike without the NWB releasing both parties from mediation.”

-Brian Parrish, Southwest Airlines spokesman

GM halts southern Brazil factory due to shipping standoff

General Motors has suspended production at a plant in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil’s southernmost state, forcing the factory to halt work.

Transportation companies Tegna and Transzero have stopped picking up the compact cars made at the plant, forcing the shutdown.

Senate cuts deal to pass Obama’s trade bills

Senate leaders reached a deal Wednesday to push ahead with votes on President Obama’s trade deals.

Leaders found a way around Tuesday’s impasse by Democrats by agreeing to let liberals have votes on key trade enforcement measures before holding votes on the fast-track authority that Obama needs to finish these new trade deals with Pacific Rim countries and Europe, according to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“I think that we’ve come up with something that is fair.”

-Harry Reid, (D-Nevada) Senate minority leader

Under the agreement, the Senate will vote Thursday on an African trade deal and a customs and enforcement measure that includes many of the trade protections Democrats feared would be lost, including a provision targeting currency manipulation by China and trading partners.

“The announcement today will drive home the importance of the message that the pro-trade Democrats sent yesterday. That enforcement of the trade laws is a prerequisite to a modern trade policy, a trade policy that sets aside once and for all the NAFTA playbook. Suffice it to say that was the message conveyed yesterday by pro-trade Democrats.”

-Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), who helped to craft the compromise after helping filibuster the trade bill

After voting on the Africa and enforcement measures, the Senate will return to debating on the fast-track legislation.

Democrats initially offered to vote on a standalone currency manipulation bill, and a package that included the fast-track (assistance for workers displaced by trade and the customs enforcement bill).

“I understand that all four [trade bills] aren’t going to be together exactly the way I want it, I understand that, but I can read votes. I also think that nobody saw us being successful yesterday three days out. And people have strong feelings about the customs enforcement and people have strong feelings about taking care of workers.”

-Sherrod Brown, senator (D-Ohio)

 

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